Mitch Epstein

New York Times Book Review, December 7th, 2003
Family Business

By Andy Grundberg

This book elegantly and eloquently traces the decline of Holyoke, Mass., a once prosperous industrial town, through the poignant example of Mitch Epstein's own family's declining fortunes and psychological disintegration. The central character in this photo/text documentary is his aged father, an erstwhile pillar of the community whose downtown furniture store is bankrupt and whose crumbling rental properties have earned him the sobriquet of slumlord. Epstein, using large-format color photographs, stills from videotapes and transcripts of recorded conversations with his family and his father's tenants and employees, creates a poetic work worthy of comparison to ''Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,'' by James Agee and Walker Evans. But here the artist works from the inside out; having left Holyoke to pursue his career as an artist decades earlier, he can be unsparingly frank about his parents, brother and aunt without glossing over the horror he feels about what has happened to them and to his hometown.